On the heels of a similar action filed by the city of Philadelphia, the tiny Delaware County borough of Sharon Hill has filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo & Co., accusing the bank of engaging in discriminatory lending practices that have targeted minority borrowers.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on June 23, claims Wells Fargo has a "longstanding, unbroken policy and practice of intentionally steering minority borrowers in Sharon Hill into 'discriminatory’ mortgage loans (defined herein as loans that have higher costs and risk features than more favorable and less expensive loans issued to similarly situated white borrowers) and engaging in facially neutral business policies and practices that created and artificial, arbitrary and unnecessary barrier to fair housing opportunities for minority home purchasers and owners."
In addition, it says Wells Fargo maintained a policy of refusing to extend credit to minority borrowers seeking to refinance the more expensive loans they previously received when such credit was extended to white borrowers.
The lawsuit, which claims the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was violated, seeks relief and damages caused by: the origination of discriminatory mortgage loans to minority borrowers that are the result of unlawful practices by Wells Fargo; the bank’s subsequent refusal to extend credit to minority borrowers seeking to refinance previously issued loans deemed discriminatory.
"These illegal practices suppressed property tax values in the borough, a minority and low-income community, reduced the borough and supporting school district’s tax revenues and increased the cost of providing municipal services such as police fire fighting and code enforcement, as well as the housing counseling and other housing-related services that the borough provides and/or funds," the complaint said.
San Francisco-based Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC), the Philadelphia region’s largest bank by deposits, released almost the identical statement it did in May when Philadelphia made similar claims of discriminatory lending. The statement called Sharon Hill’s accusations "unsubstantiated" and said it does not reflect how it operates in the borough or elsewhere.
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